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Feature: Thomas Moore - Writing Alone

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

By Thomas Moore

I’ve been trying to work out how to write about how I wrote my recent book that just came out. I’m not totally sure I know and I’m comfortable with that. I’m almost sure that I don’t know. I gave up trying to have a rationale for writing a long time ago. I realised that I don’t need to have one – actually, I usually feel like I actively shouldn’t have one.

I’ve always written. I can’t remember a time since I was able to write that I didn’t write or at least have the idea of writing in my head practically all of the time. There was a big gap after university, when I hated the idea of writing so much and had lost all love for it that I felt like I would never write again – but even within that – writing was in its absence, such a huge part of my thinking.

When I’m asked why I write or where any of it comes from, I never can give an answer that seems to please. The question itself seems to ask for a certain type of answer – I’m not sure what type of answer exactly – but when I say, “I don’t know”, it doesn’t feel like its answering sufficiently, even though it’s the most accurate.

I imagine two scenarios when I think about the process of writing. One is where I’m entering a fog. A fog has managed to form and engulf the entirety of a room. I walk into it – everything is obscured. I put my hands out to feel my way through. My fingers brush against something. I stop and raise my arms again, opening my palms and relaxing my fingers. I touch whatever it is that I’ve found. The fog is so intense that I’ve given up on seeing or trying to work out what’s in here. My hands move, rest against the bends and turns of the thing. I’m feeling the shape in the dark, trying to figure out what it’s meant to be, trying to work out what’s hidden inside this heavy fog. Trying to work out what my novel is and just letting myself realise it bit by bit, going over it with my hands until the shape becomes clearer.

The second scenario is that I somehow create a pile of mud. I have to start scraping the mud with my hands, throwing off wet chunks until I start to feel a more solid structure. I scrub and peel and pick at it with my fingers and nails until I’ve revealed the sculpture that was hidden in the mound of mud.

Neither of those are entirely accurate but I hope they at least gave some idea of the state of things. To reiterate again, when it comes to why I write – I just do not know.

My understanding of the novel I’m working on does shift and change as I write it. I try and stick to the ideas that have presented and realise them as fully as I can. I start to notice patterns, reoccurring ideas or symbols. I tend to figure out this notion of a structure – I know how things have to hang off it – like decorating a Christmas tree or something. I balance things where they won’t fall off – I space certain things out for specific unknown reasons that just feel right.

It took about two years plus to write Alone – my third novel that was just published. I ended up editing for a long time as I always do. I probably cut the novel in half. I write fast and end up with lots of source material that I then strip away at until it feels like I have the necessary things that the novel needs and nothing else. Some strands end up being tiny sub-plots – some are expanded, some disappear completely – you’ll never know about them. They’re gone. Ashes.

As I can’t tell you why I wrote the book or really how – it’s hard to map out intuition and compulsion, I thought that perhaps I could layout some themes that are present in the book. It doesn’t mean the book is about these things. But they are definitely in there.

Things referenced in Alone:

  • Relationships

  • Being alone

  • Loneliness

  • Sickness and death

  • Attachment

  • Suburbs

  • Memory and reconstructions

  • Real events VS fictional

  • Real people VS fictional

  • Teen Stars

  • Hurricanes and storm chasers

  • Cults

  • Paranoia

  • Grindr

  • Cruising

  • Public sex

  • Group sex

  • Phones

  • Messages

  • Age and ageing

  • Jealousy

  • Language failing

  • The sky, specifically clouds and colours

  • Kids getting famous on YouTube

  • Awkward conversations

  • Child abuse

  • Drugs

  • Horror films

  • Darkrooms

  • Anonymous sex

  • Queerness

  • Regrets

  • Happiness

  • Bliss

  • Contentment

  • Halloween

  • Disguises

  • Fear

  • Online sex

  • Prostitution

  • Fantasy VS reality

Those are some of the things that presented themselves during the writing of Alone. The themes and ideas took on different levels of importance respectively. Some were referenced constantly; others were written about in depth but then cut into oblivion during the editing process. The novel dictated what it needed to be, and I just helped it along.

It’s that simple. And to explain it is too complicated for words.


Thomas Moore's first two novels, A Certain Kind of Light (2013) and In Their Arms (2016) were published by Rebel Satori. His novella, GRAVES (2011), and three books of poems, The Night Is An Empire (2013), Skeleton Costumes (2015) and When People Die (2018), were published by Kiddiepunk. His third novel, Alone (2020) was published by Amphetamine Sulphate.

In Our Own Words is an ongoing feature where artists and writers are asked to speak about their new work, ideas or projects in their own words. It is also part of invert/extant Transmissions for the Artist Writings series. If you would like to be kept up to date on this or other projects, please sign up for our newsletter.

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